HEAR US Inc.…giving voice and visibility to homeless kids...
June 30, 2008
Dear Monroe County Superintendents,
HEAR US Inc.
Numbers on the enclosed report are indicators of how many students were identified as homeless in Monroe County. All districts have room for improvement. Compliance with the law (Subtitle VII-B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, reauthorized by Title X, Part C, of the No Child Left Behind Act) isn’t the only reason. Homeless students can thrive in a stable, safe learning environment.
Those who have scored higher identifying homeless students have a few tricks of the trade:
· They know addresses of motels or shelters (although few areas outside Rochester have shelters).
· They have trained enrollment personnel to be sensitively alert to signs of homelessness at the time families enroll or as youth attempt to enroll on their own.
· They know the definition of homeless extends beyond the obvious of living in a shelter or on the streets.
· They have set up communication within the district so people know who to contact if they suspect a student might be homeless.
· They have publicized the rights of homeless students in places where homeless families and teens will see them.
· They continually work to de-stigmatize homelessness among staff and students.
· They know what local agencies assist families or teens in homeless situations and encourage two-way communication.
· They are alert to natural disasters that displace low-income families.
· They care.
While poverty certainly is a major factor in homelessness, it is not the only one. The leading cause of homelessness among families is domestic violence, something that affects all income levels and is an incident that tends to not be talked about by those involved. Homeless teens often become homeless because of abuse in the home—of all income levels.
If a district has any poverty, and all Monroe County districts do, then it is likely that AT LEAST 10% of those in poverty will experience homelessness: eviction or foreclosure causes them to move in with family/friends or into motels, moving often as the current arrangement falls apart; natural disaster, forces families with scant resources to turn to family/friends, or motels, once short-lived assistance from disaster agencies runs out; break-up of marriages or relationships forces people out of the family residence; income/credit problems; and/or safety issues, physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse which renders their living situation untenable.
For any district to report 0 homeless students is a red flag. Even affluent districts will have students who fit the definition of homeless. It takes some effort on the part of the district’s liaison and other school personnel to be alert to homelessness.
Feel free to contact HEAR US for more information about resources available to school districts and communities. Also, excellent resources are available through NYS TEACHS and the National Center for Homeless Education.
HEAR US Inc.